Top fishery officials are gathering in Morocco this week to discuss sustainable trade practices in a $144 billion industry that provides developing countries with more export revenue than meat, tobacco, rice and sugar combined.
Lower-income nations’ exports of fish and fishery products reached $78 billion in 2014, more than triple the value of global rice exports, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Sustainably serving those lucrative markets is of critical importance to developing countries, where most fish are produced, whether caught in the wild or grown in cages or farm ponds,” the agency’s news release says.
The biennial high-level meeting of FAO’s Sub-Committee on Fish Trade, being held in Agadir through Friday, 26 February, has drawn delegations of fisheries ministries from more than 50 countries to discuss emerging governance needs of the fisheries sector.
“Trade in fish is much more important than people think, both in absolute and relative terms,” said Audun Lem, Deputy-Director in FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division, who serves as Secretary of the meeting.
Dialogues will help FAO, its member countries and industry representatives understand new trends, opportunities and challenges in the fishing sector, fostering the development of strategies that can “best position developing countries to develop their fisheries sectors in a sustainable manner and to maximize their economic benefit from the growth we expect to witness,” Mr. Lem said.
One major topic for consideration is how to better trace products throughout the supply chain. Ministers are poised to agree on FAO’s proposed technical guidelines for catch documentation schemes, a set of documents testifying to the legal origin of the catch. This could become an important tool in curbing illegal fishing, a target concerning the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources under Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.
Central to the effort is FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which has now been ratified by 21 nations and is on course to have the 25 national ratifications required to enter into full legal force by the time the Committee on Fisheries, an intergovernmental forum, meets in July.
Work will also focus on harmonizing certification requirements for fish exports to major international markets, where consumers as well as retailers are becoming more alert to quality, safety and legality concerns.
New trends will also be among the subjects at the Agadir meeting. Aquaculture output has more than tripled to 78 million tonnes over the past 20 years, making it the world’s fastest-growing food producing sector. FAO expects wild-caught fish to grow modestly in volume terms while its share of the market for human consumption declines to 38 per cent in 2030.
Aquaculture is a very important both for food security and for economic growth, explains Audun Lem, Deputy Director of FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division. Credit: FAO
While most fish farms are in Asia, aquaculture's highest growth rates have of late been in Africa and South and Central America, where its marginal contribution to food security can be higher than elsewhere precisely due to the fact that per-capita consumption of fish in these emerging regions has traditionally been low.
Aquaculture, typically far less seasonal and volatile than open-sea fishing, can help food waste be minimized and food safety enhanced, and investments in cold-storage facilities incentivized, all enabling supermarkets to plan and guarantee procurement.
The seafood menu is also changing in many ways, as exemplified by the fact that, for the first time in history, more fresh tuna was flown to the US than to Japan.
Shifts in age-old patterns are likely to become a common feature in the future of fish, especially as developing countries increase their share of world imports. Since 2013, salmon and trout have replaced shrimp as the most important commodity traded in value terms.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.
Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.
Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
- Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume
- Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods
- Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP
- Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions
- Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming
- Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
- Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people
- Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$ 50 billion less per year than they could
- As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats
- By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
- By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
- Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
- By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
- By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
- By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
- By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
- Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
- Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
- Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want